borrowed scenery: of views and viewsheds
A “NEIGHBOR” CLOSER TO THE HUDSON RIVER than I am got me thinking recently again about how much our sense of landscape and of gardens depends on “borrowed scenery” that forms our views. Frederic Church depicted his view across the Hudson to the Catskill Mountains in 1871 (shown), a vista not unlike my neighbor’s. What’s your view like, and what’s your view on views?
Such expressions by Church and other artists in the Hudson River School marked the start of the American environmental movement, many experts believe today. Standing in my neighbor friend’s garden recently and looking out at the same landscape they did, I was reminded how few of us get to witness that kind of majesty very often, and how precious a resource such viewsheds are. No wonder they inspired an entire movement.
Today a number of historic sites like Church’s astonishing home near here called Olana are working to protect their viewsheds, in part thanks to work by groups like Scenic Hudson, and to unique events like the one coming up Nov. 1 for Olana’s benefit (see details of their ‘Viewshed Tour’ below).
Nearer to New York City, the dramatic stretch of Palisades across the Hudson from the gardens of Wave Hill has long been protected from unsightly development. At Monticello, in Charlottesville, Virginia, similar viewshed preservation efforts are under way, as they are in the Napa Valley and numerous spectacular places across the country. Perhaps you know of some to share, or some you never want to lose?
Even my far-smaller views from where I sit and where I garden are precious to me: a glimpse of the sunset sinking into an adjacent cornfield across the road, the way the stand of birches to my southeast catch the sunrise in winter. Nothing to paint and hang in a national museum, exactly, and not even part of “my property,” but I am definitely attached to seeing them.
As much as where my house was situated, as much or more than any other factor, these bits of borrowed scenery influenced how and where I made my gardens on this little piece of land. Are there views you treasure (or things you want to hide)? What scenery are you borrowing as part of your individual garden pictures?
RARE GLIMPSES OF OLANA’S VIEWSHED: COME TOUR ON NOV. 1
On Saturday, Nov. 1, the Olana Partnership and the New York State Office of Parks join 12 landowners to celebrate the beauty that surrounds Olana’s landscape. This first-of-its-kind event includes access to a dozen privately owned landscapes, from orchards and farms to estates, all in the dramatic Olana viewshed and looking back at Olana, the Hudson and the Catskills beyond. I plan to wander through them all that day, and savor the rare opportunity to take in all that borrowed scenery and help keep it safe in the process by buying a ticket and participating. Proceeds will benefit the restoration of Olana’s landscape. All the details of this unique event are in this PDF invitation.